What was the position of Women in the New Testament and Canonical Gospels?
Women played a vital role in the spread of Christianity in the first and second century AD. In the New Testament and Canonical Gospel, they held various functions and responsibilities.
They were among Jesus’ first followers and they continued to function in the early church in a variety of roles. They could be apostles, evangelists, prophets, teachers and house church leaders. Women spread the Christ’s message and reinforced the impact of nascent christinity.
The condition of women in Palestine and the Greek-Roman world in the first century
In biblical times, depending on the position in life a woman occupied, whether she was single or married, childless or widowed, her social significance varied considerably. Indeed, social hierarchy allowed wealthy women to have privileges, autonomy and education more superior than those of lower ranks. This was the case for Mary Magdalene for instance.
Also, rich women or aristocratic class had great political influence (we think about the role of Claudia Procula, Ponsus Pilatus’wife).
However, it was not a notion of gender equality, but rather a notion of social class distinction. Men of all classes were superior. In general, the male view of the woman was quite negative.
Most of the information we have about the lives of women in the Greco-Roman society at this time, come from famous authors, but all men.
Flavius Josephus said that the law considers that women are inferior in all fields and that they must be submitted. The Jewish philosopher Philo cited women as examples of weakness throughout his writings. He felt they had to stay at home and live in solitude. Some have argued that the place of women in Judaism began to decline under the bureaucratic influence of the monarchy. However, there is no doubt that the way in which the Greco-Roman society considered women in Palestine influenced Judaic thought at that time. Patriarchy was the ideology that shaped their thought and lives. Men considered women inferior and dangerous distractions.
What about Jesus’ attitude ?
One of the elements that differentiates the Jesus’ movement and the early Church from the social organization of the time is, among other things, that women are no longer so automatically and systematically confined to their traditional roles. Women in canonical gospels seems to have a very important place.
Their adherence to the movement of Jesus and to the Christian faith can be expressed in the same way as that of men and sometimes even in leadership roles. Of course, this role will be framed to respect the social context in which it fits. But this will allow some women, the best example is Mary Magdalene to make unconventional choices, to make unusual actions, to practice charisms and to be role models for the community.
Jesus welcomed and affirmed women
This attitude was quite in keeping with rabbinic norms. Women were important followers of Jesus in some of the most significant moments of his life. Throughout his ministry, women were enabling his ministry through their support and service.
Many women in the gospels meet the requirements of discipleship: learning from Jesus, learning to teach and teaching others. Among them, Mary Magdalene in Bethany sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching. An action defended by Jesus even as Martha, her sister, criticized this attitude.
The Gospel of John tells the anointing of Mary Magdalene with a precious perfume on the feet of Jesus that she then wiped with her hair. This gesture would have been frowned upon and forbidden to Jewish women. Jesus defended her and bound her action to her infinite love for him (“She is forgiven because she loves a lot”)
Also, the meeting of Jesus with the Samaritan woman in a public place is another break with the Jewish tradition. Her conversation led her to recognize him as Messiah, and her apostolic testimony resulted in the conversion of many Samaritans into this city.
Women witnessing the crucifixion.
Women played a central role in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The women in canonical gospels who followed Jesus, Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene were quite the only ones at the foot of the coss. They witnessed his crucifixion and burial. We also note their presence and their testimony in front of the empty tomb. The testimonies of these women are an old and rooted element of the tradition inscribed in all the Gospel accounts.
Finally, Mary Magdalene, of course, witnessed to the resurrection of Jesus. She appears in the four Gospels and in several non-canonical works. We can not underestimated women’s testimonies in the establishment and spread of the Christian faith.
Why Jesus considered women diffrently?
t seems that there was a form of particular equality within the movement of Jesus and the first Christian communities.
Indeed, how can one explain that Jesus, against all the social norms of the time, allows women, obviously without a husband or close male relative by their side, to travel through towns and villages with himself and the Twelve? In the name of what principles does it incite Mary to help her sister Martha, rather than encourage her to sit and listen to him, in the position of disciple? How is it that he accepts his homage in the house of a Pharisee, even going so far as to value her attitude to the detriment of that of his guest?
It could be because, in terms of their nature, God created man and woman equal. In Genesis, God created them in His image.
And so for Jesus, whose actions are rooted in the will of the Father, the fact that He created men and women equal and in His image requires him, against the mores of the time to treat them according to this equality desired by God from the beginning.(This is very close to the Cathar philosophy that will be the subject of further study.)
As a conclusion, we can say that none of the women Jesus met denied or abandoned him, they all heard the Gospel message, and they are a kind of Mystical Church.